IFAS | Freedom Writer | November 1998 | falwell.html

Former Donald Duck church to be the largest

Lynchburg, Virginia In 1956, when the Rev. Jerry Falwell decided to build a church, he took over a building used by the Donald Duck soft drink bottling company. The 35 members affectionately referred to the church as the Donald Duck Church. Today, Falwell's church, Thomas Road Baptist Church, seats 3,300. By Christmas 1999, Falwell hopes to complete a new $20 million, 12,000 seat-sanctuary, the largest in the country. He's counting on four unnamed benefactors to contribute $5 million apiece.

Falwell also heads the nearby Liberty University, a Christian fundamentalist college. As recently as 1996, Liberty was $110 million in debt. Multimillion dollar gifts from friends, such as life insurance tycoon A.L. Williams, have reduced the debt to $10 million. The 65-year-old Falwell said the new church will be his last project. In the not too distant future, he plans to turn his ministry over to associate pastors, including his son Jonathan.

Falwell is perhaps best known for his leadership in the now-defunct Moral Majority, a 10 year-old group he dissolved in 1989, saying "our mission is accomplished."

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.